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Testimony of Lady Grizel Baillie (1665–1746)

My early home was at Redbraes Castle in Berwickshire; the Blackadder river ran close to our house and the country round was hilly; farther away we could see much higher hills. My childhood was very happy, and it was busy because I had so many younger brothers and sisters that I was always helping my mother. We were not rich and had not many servants. It did make me sad sometimes to see my father look so anxious, and to hear him talk about the poor folk, further away to the west, who were being hunted by the King’s troopers. Indeed, my father was not safe, and his greatest friend, Mr. Baillie of Jerviswood, was in prison in Edinburgh on account of his opinions.

One day, when I was about twelve, father said to me: ‘Grizel, I want you to take a letter to Edinburgh for me; Jamie Winter shall go with you and you must go to the Tolbooth prison and give the letter to Mr. Robert Baillie. The guards will let you in but it would be dangerous for me.’

I said, ‘Yes father, sure, I will.’

It was thirty miles from Redbraes to Edinburgh, so we left home on horseback, Jamie and I, at six o’clock and got to the town by mid-day. We took bannock cakes to eat on the way. Then we rode down the High Street to the Tolbooth. It was a fair wide street, and there were mighty great houses on each side. At the prison, we had to wait, Jamie outside with the horses, and I in a sort of passage within. Then there came to speak to me a young man, the son of Mr. Robert Baillie, who asked me what my errand was. I told him all, for his face was kind and honest, so that I trusted him. Then he took me in to Mr. Robert Baillie’s room. Mr. Baillie read the letter I brought, and smiled on me and said: ‘You are but young, Mistress Grizel, to come visiting a poor prisoner.’ He called his son George, and Master George smiled on me too, so I liked them both very well. Then I took Mr. Robert’s letter, and the goaler let me out. Jamie and I rode homewards but we did not hurry much because it was better for us to arrive in the dark.

It was after this that our own troubles began. I cannot count the years that passed, for life was very full and the children and mother needed much helping; but one day father was taken away by the King’s troopers. Sometimes he would come back for a time looking very ill and thin, and stay a while, and then off to prison again.

So it went on till, when I was about eighteen, father being at home, he said to mother: ‘Rachel, Robert Baillie is in prison again, and they will be harder on him this time. They know I am his friend. I must hide myself.’

There was only one place we could think of, our family vault in Polworth Churchyard.

And there father went; it was a dreadful dark place with only a slit to give air. No one knew, except mother and me and Jamie Winter. As for his food, what was to be done? Well, each dinner-time, I had a bag on my lap and into it I slipped some food. When the household had gone to bed, I walked alone to Polworth. I used to stumble over the graves and I shivered for fear of ‘bogies’, what nurse used to talk about. But it was good to see poor father enjoy his food and to talk to him. He liked to hear of all that was happening at home, and he laughed at things the children said. There was a great jest once over a sheep’s head. It was a dish father loved well; so, one dinner time, I managed to slip the whole of it into my bag. But my brother Alexander suddenly said: ‘Mother will ye look at Grizel? While we have been eating our broth, she has eaten up the whole sheep’s head.’ Father laughed at this and said, ‘Next time, it’s Sandy must have the big portion.’ And so it was.

What I minded most was the barking of the ministers’ dogs, as I went by; I thought they would betray us. But mother persuaded the minister to have them destroyed, because, she said, there was a mad dog about the place.

After a few weeks, father got so ill for lack of air that we contrived a new hiding-place. There was a small room in our house opening on the garden; Jamie Winter took up the floor boards, and he and I scraped up the earth underneath till there was space for a bed; and Jamie put back the boards when he had pierced them with holes; there father lay all day and when the troopers came they did not find him.

Four weeks passed thus; then water began to soak up through the earth, and we knew that that plan was useless.

About this time—I being then nineteen—we heard that Mr. Robert Baillie had been hanged at the Market Cross at Edinburgh; it was Christmas time, and very dreadful. Then, father said to mother: ‘Rachel, I must go away.’ She and I made clothes for him as a disguise. And when they were ready, father and John, our grieve, were to start before daylight, riding. Father was to be a surgeon, carrying a lancet, for he was skilled at letting blood, and John told the servants that he was taking goods to Morpeth Fair. All that day and the next, we waited sorely anxious; but John got back at dark the night after. He told mother and me how he had parted from father somewhere south the Border, and how they were once nearly caught. John had lost sight of father, who had rid on ahead, and just then came along a party of red-coats. They asked John for news of ‘that rebel Patrick Hume’, but John muttered he was but a grieve on his way to market and what should he know of rebels? So they let him go, and went off the way John had come. Then John caught up with father, till at dark he was able to find an easier road, and so they parted.

After many weeks, we heard that father was safely in Holland; but though we did thank God, we were sad, because he said we must leave our dear country and go to him in that strange land.

We went across, therefore, after many weeks, and got to Utrecht where father was living and pretending to be a surgeon ‘Dr. Wallace.’

But Julian, one of my sisters, was too sick to travel with us, and when she got well, it was for me to go back to London to fetch her. Oh! the miserable journey! The ship we took was very small and crowded, only one bed in the cabin, and in it two elderly ladies. So Julian and I lay on the floor. Suddenly, in comes the Captain very angry, and very full of drink, methought. What must he do but turn out those two poor ladies and lie in their bed himself? Also, he found our few provisions and ate them all. We were glad enough when the storm increased so terribly that two sailors came down and fetched the captain up on deck. We got to Brill at last; it was still dark, raining fast, and no one to meet us. We set out on foot carrying our bundles; a gentleman from the ship was our companion. Presently, poor Julian, very weakly on her feet, stuck fast in the mud, and left her shoes in it; it was too dark to find them. So I must take her on my back and indeed I was strong enough; our companion obligingly carried our goods, and by daybreak we got to Rotterdam. Oh! the joyful sight! there were father and Patrick to meet us. And you may think we were thankful for rest and food.

* * * * * *

Our life at Utrecht was busy and happy, but we were very poor. We had a fair large house, clean and airy, the floors of brick or tiles, easy to keep clean. We had one servant to help us at times, but when our money did not come from England by the packet-boat, we could not pay a maid, and indeed had to put in pledge our silver things from Scotland.

Every day I rose early and cleaned my father’s study for him, because he could not go out in the streets for fear of informers. In his study he taught my brothers and sisters, and me when I had time to learn. We learned English, and Dutch, and French, and writing.

I loved to play on the harpsichord and to write verses, but hardly had I sat down but I used to hear, ‘Grizel, will ye see to the broth for supper?’ or ‘Grizel, will ye mend my coat?’ Also, we had many visitors, for there were Scots in Utrecht, refugees, and as our house was larger than most, we often asked them to dinner.

Now, my eldest brother had made friends with one George Baillie, who was that son of Mr. Robert Baillie whom I had seen in the prison. And we both remembered that meeting, and indeed we soon became friends.

Now Patrick and George were sent for by the Prince of Orange—the Stadtholder, as he was called—being the ruler of Holland. They were both made officers of the Prince’s bodyguard, and had to be on duty at the palace. Their uniform was very smart and their linen had to be very fine and white. Often I used to sit up late to starch and iron it for both of them.

Thus our lives ran on for some four years; and then a strange thing happened in England.

King James II. had displeased the people of England so much that the leading men invited Prince William of Orange to become King of England, his wife Princess Mary Queen, she being daughter of King James, and both of them Protestants.

Then, my father, with Patrick and George Baillie, went to England in the train of the Prince, and after a time we also made our new home there. Queen Mary, indeed, graciously invited me to be one of her maids of honour, but I begged leave to refuse. I was full of thought now of a happy future, for George Baillie and I were only waiting to be married till we should have more money. Two years later, King William bestowed on George a small estate in Scotland; then we were married and our life was truly happy.

My greatest sorrow after this was the death of my dear mother. Many of us brothers and sisters stood round her as she lay dying, but I could only weep behind the curtain of her bed. When I heard her say, ‘Where is Grizel? ‘ I went to her, and she, holding my hand, spoke thus: ‘Dear Grizel, blessed be you above all, for a helpful child have you been to me.’ And at this I cried all the more, for now, never again should I be able to help her.

Still my dear father was left; he went to live at Marchmont House in Berwickshire, because he had become Earl of Marchmont; and this forced me to be called ‘Lady Grizel’ instead of just ‘Grizel,’ and it seems to be too grand for one who was ever a simple body. I used to travel to Marchmont when I could, and try to get my father’s affairs into order, for he became too feeble to manage his money and his land.

Then, too, I had to look after the children of my brother, Sandy, now Lord Polwarth, because he had to go abroad; and sometimes I had to live in London for George’s sake when Parliament was sitting.

Then came that terrible year, the ‘45, when Prince Charles Edward stirred up trouble for Scotland and for England too. It was a sore time for many. I got no money from Scotland and could hardly pay my butcher and my baker. ...

Editor's Note: This account of Lady Grizel Baillie was written by her daughter, Lady Grizel Murray and taken from Lady Baillie's diary. - AW



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